Support services firm looks to New York and Thames Gateway for recovery after 96% profit fall in 2002.
Support services group WSP is hoping to land work on the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre and on the UK government's scheme to build 200,000 new homes in the Thames Gateway.

The work would be welcome at WSP, which has had a very poor year. It announced a pre-tax profit of £400,000 for the year ending 31 December, compared with £11.5m in 2001.

WSP chief executive Chris Cole said the firm's two New York subsidiaries, high-rise structural engineering specialist Cantor Seinuk Group and building services engineer Flack + Kurtz, would be well-placed to work on Daniel Libeskind's redesign of the World Trade Centre.

Cole said: "It's very political but we would expect to be involved. Larry Silverstein [leaseholder of the site] is a major client of ours."

Work is almost complete on the redevelopment of No 7 World Trade Centre, which collapsed the day after the twin towers were destroyed in the 11 September attacks.

WSP has been involved in this project, and has also advised a number of the teams that issued initial pitches for the new World Trade Centre.

Cole added that the firm was also positioning itself to win work in the Thames Gateway scheme, which the government sees as key to plans for tackling the housing shortage in the South-east.

Cole said: "We are talking to various clients about the Thames Gateway."

WSP blamed its sharp drop in profit last year on restructuring costs made in the light of downturns in the commercial, financial, corporate and leisure sectors.

Chairman Peter Welch said in his statement: "After 10 years of growth, last year saw a change in this momentum, which required early action. This resulted in exceptional costs for 2002 in respect of selected property and staff reductions, both in the private sector businesses and importantly in our group central support costs."

Pre-tax profit before exceptional items and amortisation of goodwill was £12m, in line with the profit warning WSP issued in December. Turnover rose £36m to £261m last year.